Readers Write: Collective Grief

These letters are all in response to the story "The Unbearable Darkness of Being" by Lakshmi Chaudhry.

From Chaudhry: I want to thank all of you who wrote in to offer support and share their views and emotions. If my essay lightened your burden, your letters surely lightened mine.

I do want to clarify to the number of readers who seem to have misread my words about staying home and taking care of children. It's a natural thought that occurs to women when things are tough or we become disillusioned with a certain area of our life. We console ourselves with the idea that at least we have motherhood, something that is always rewarding and fulfilling. And we know that a life dedicated to raising your children is a real option – and a good one.

So I was talking not of the choices women face between family and career but of the despair that would lead me to give up journalism. And since there is nothing else I want to do, I'd end up "staying home."

That said, thank you again for writing.

Oh, The Humanity
Thank you so much for your column; it feels unbearable to me as well and I'm trying to wrap myself around this new reality.
I asked a colleague, what is worse, to have the election stolen in 2000, or to feel that in 2004, with all the illusions exposed, the electorate chose the illusions anyway? He told me something I've been chewing on ever since. They're good people, he said, Don't forget that.
I'm trying to use that as a way back in; mostly not succeeding.
Carter McAdams
Oberlin, Ohio

Hope, Glimmering Hope
I just finished reading your article �The Unbearable Darkness of Being� and wanted to give you some hope. As the only Democrat manager in a department filled with Republicans (my boss introduces me as his obligatory liberal) Wednesday morning was a tough one to face. Then I started looking at the positives for me. Sure Colorado voted for Dubya but we also sent a new Democrat to Washington, making our numbers four to five instead of three to six. And, for some inexplicable reason, the voters of my state turned the 44-year-old Republican majority in both houses of the State government around and into a democrat majority. Our right-wing governor is going to have a tough last four years before his term limit is up.

Hawaii voted for Kerry! Guess those good people didn�t particularly care for Cheney telling them that if they voted for Kerry there would be another Pearl Harbor. I can see them standing on the shores of Oahu shouting: �Bring It On, Dick!!!�

Now, instead of having to listen to all the republicans nit pick everything that Kerry would do as President, the reverse is true. I can continue to point out all the things wrong with Dubya and his crew and rail about the fact that most of them are former lifers in the military but don�t see that Iraq is just a drier Vietnam. I point out to them every day how many have died in this �war� and that we have now had more of our children killed or injured in Iraq than we had citizens killed or injured in the 9/11 bombings.

Finally, I have told all of the Republicans I know that they have been bitching and whining for years that �if they could only have a Republican house, senate and President, they could really make this country great,� that I am holding their feet to the fire and if they don�t produce, they will not hear the end of it from me.

Let�s face it. The United States has gone through far worse times than we will be facing over the next four years and survived. We will survive this, too. In the meantime it is your duty and responsibility to continue to point out the mistakes and the outright lies. It is your obligation to strive to tell your readers the truth and to begin preparing all of them to really get out and vote for the Clinton/Obama ticket in 2008.

In the meantime, have that baby and revel in the miracle of him or her. Your baby is our future. If we don�t continue to work for what is best for our future, then we will only have the past and a tenuous present. Take it from an old man, things will change. People will eventually wake up. And the sun will rise every day. 120,000,000 people voted. We have work to do to ensure that 140,000,000 vote next time and that we have done our darnedest to encourage them to vote the way we believe.

So chin up, roll up your sleeves, and let�s get on with it. We have a lot of work to do in just four short years.
Robert Morris
Denver, Colo.

Don't Blame the Mother
I found Lakshmi Chaudhry's commentary on post 11/2 feelings resonating with me until I got to the line where she said, "... maybe lose myself in motherhood as some women do when defeated in other parts of their lives." How insulting and condescending, as if it's only a choice when nothing else works. As a full-time mother, formerly a full-time professional woman, I feel strongly that there is no choice that is better than another for women choosing to have children. Each woman's choice is right if it works for them. In an already-divisive world, there is nothing to be gained by pitting stay-at-home mothers with mothers in the workplace. Haven't we come further along than this?
Maria Sillari
Portsmouth, N.H.

Channeling Energies
Thank you for a beautifully written column: The Unbearable Darkness of Being. It makes one feel less alone to know that others feel the same way.

As editor of AlterNet I have a suggestion to make since you reach many similarly afflicted readers.

I am 81 years old and must spend my final years with the ugliness of a Bush presidency and all it entails. But I want to use my last energies in something useful. Even before the election I thought about the importance of reviving the spirit of the anti-war marchers and protesters no matter who won. I would like to see this started with the cooperation of the myriad organizations who supported the democrats and I am writing to everyone I have on my websites to start a real movement going. My family marched in the anti-Vietnam demonstrations which eventually brought down two presidencies and helped end the war. I think this is Bush's Achille's heel and Iraq will become worse and even the holier than thou right wing Christians will begin to have guilt pangs.

So, Ms. Chaudhry, use your offices and publication to jump start this important movement. As a woman the horrors of the suffering of women in particular in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. cannot be swept under the carpet.

Thank you.
Pearl Volkov
Sun City Center, Fla.

Return to Spiritual Roots
I read with empathy the editorial by Lakshmi Chaudhry titled, "The Unbearable Darkness of Being." My daughter, understanding my philosophy and my heart, forwarded it to me and thus guided me to AlterNet. Briefly, I am in ministry in the United Methodist church. My personal ministry seems to be with persons experiencing homelessness and those who are disenfranchised in the St Louis area ... or wherever; St Louis for now.

Initially I too was pained and in fear of the election results. Like the author I feel as if the country has been lost. My immediate reaction was, as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, that Canada's once again looking pretty good. I feel that we've been overwhelmed by robber barons and children of affluence; those who can only generalize issues in simplistic terms born of fear, overpowering thoughtfulness with volume.

I have come to realize that there is an empire about and as insurmountable as it may seem, these things too will pass. I have cycled back to basic spiritual roots. The philosophy of Jesus, Buddha and other true spiritual leaders boils down to the healing of those within reach who are in need. The challenge is not to fret over the empires which will inevitably rise and fall, but to focus on those individuals that are unseen and disregarded by the prevailing powers. While this may seem to be futile the task at hand becomes touching those that can be reached. If we become consumed by the perception of defeat, we lose the chance to assist those who are most affected by the greed of these powerful warmongers. We touch those untouchables that are within our reach.

My saddest thoughts are of those who have twisted spiritual ideals and writings to justify their religious egos and force these concepts into law. The standard focus should be that of compassion and equity for the "least" rather than the empowerment of the rich.

I mourn the the loss of our country to the not-so-subtle takeover by the false prophets of the "religious right" who push family values, "right to life" and an unjust war. It is government's responsibility is to turn its attention to the impact of poverty in this country. "Right to life" becomes the right to earn a living wage and to decent housing. "Right to birth" becomes a personal decision to be decided by those who give birth. Marriage becomes a lifelong commitment between two humans. The heterosexual concept of marriage has become a mockery of the term subject to convenience and legal wranglings. Family values and morals should be built on love and compassion, not on mass media and marketing.

While the world may seem to be falling in around us, I find I must center myself on these basics. I have many luxuries in life. I have been blessed with an affluent lifestyle. My calling is to share that affluence with those who have nothing. Part of that is sharing my gifts and my time. I have been blessed that I might be a blessing to those in need.

Take heart and don't be overwhelmed. The concepts of "country" and nationalism begin to lose their importance when you concentrate on individuals. The face of the poor are not that different than the face in the mirror. The person that stands in front of you at any given moment is the most important person in the world. If you can touch them, then do. Speak only when necessary and then temper those words with compassion. Above all, learn to listen.

The Caesars of the world will always be there as will the poor. Our greatest impact is with the latter.

Thomas Fogarty

Opening Up Dialogue
My answer to the author is yes, we do need to learn to "talk to those who think that a ban on abortion is the single most important issue in their life." And, we need to stop trying to "influence" them, that their values are wrong and our values are better (this quickly shuts down dialogue). In addition, I think we need to give up this notion of "winning." If we truly believe in the values of "tolerance, justice, and equality" do these value not require that we remain at the table, in spite of our differences? If we "can't talk to each other" – are we not losing valuable opportunities to learn from each other? How can we move towards global peace, social justice, etc. without dialogue and openness to difference. My fear is that we will simply remain at war, trying to out muscle each other.

What I find interesting about this article (and others throughout the campaign process) is that we as "liberals" appear to be saying the same thing that "Bush" has been saying for four years – just using different examples of values that can not be tolerated. Are we not operating from the same dichotomous mentality as "Bush?"

I encourage us to consider feeling our sadness, and then moving beyond our pain and work toward "unity." This does not mean we take on someone else's values if they don't fit for us. For me, it means we stretch our "liberal" minds. We voice and live our values and we stay connected to those who are different from us. Once we "disconnect," the hope of world peace, etc. is lessened. Making the decision that liberals are "right" (and others wrong), is scary to me and dangerous. How far will we go to eradicate the values of those we see as "different"?

Yesterday I wrote to some of my friends and family to consider the possiblity that we "vote everyday with our choices and actions." Our day-to-day (minute-to-minute) actions, thoughts, choices influence world peace, social justice, inclusive communities as does a vote for a particular individual.

I ask that our grief not cloud our vision of peace.
Terri Pellitteri

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